“Affair with the James” is a year-long video project about the James River as it runs through Richmond, Virginia in the United States. Once a week, for 52 weeks, I videoed something happening at the river. Over that period of time, I show the vast community that uses the river. That comes together because of the river. That loves the river.
As one viewers at the Premiere noted:
Elli, I loved the diversity of moments that you captured, and the variety of people enjoying those moments. Diversity Park was such a great place to have your premiere, not just for its setting, but for the consistency of the name with the theme of your movie.
What do ladies tunefully navigating a batteau, 14 year olds kayaking in flood stage rapids, splashing 2 year olds, men and women SUP boarders, smoking, tatooed fishermen, giggling girls tipping kayaks, Floridian tourists visiting for the first time, and Ralph White ALL have in common? They all love the James River in Richmond, and you have captured that so well in this movie.
The idea evolved after several years of attending Banff Film Festivals. Each year, I wanted to make a film about some “exotic” place, coming up with ideas like filming the upside down trees in Africa and getting students from both continents involved. Slowly, it dawned on me that the James River, my own backyard, is very exotic. And if anyone knows exotic, I do. I’ve lived in 12 states and traveled in more than 50 countries so I dove in, recognizing a good idea when I have one.
Filmed entirely on an iPhone in a LifeProof case, the project is about real life. Not the “perfect golden light” at 5 minutes after sunrise. It’s about real people out enjoying the river and what all it has to offer. Not fancy microphones and fancy cameras with take two’s and take three’s.
There are two versions of the documentary; one is the 45-minute piece which premiered August 2, 2013. In a testament to what the video is about, more than 300 river devotees came to the premiere at Diversity Park. The premiere was shown at the river, projected right on the floodwall, because the piece is about the river. The shorter version, now a part of the Environmental Film Festival Library Tour, is ever-changing in an attempt to reveal in just 10 short minutes why so many of us are having our own Affair with the James.